Jiahu Flutes

Do you want to know about the oldest musical instrument in China? Meet the oldest flute they made from the bone of a crane!

The Jiahu flutes are one of the oldest musical instruments that archaeologists found in Jiahu, China.

Jiahu Flutes and the Site

Jiahu is an archaeologic site in the Yellow River basin of Henan Province, in Central China. It is remarkable for the Neolithic settlement as well as the cultural and artistic remains. Scholars consider this site to be one of the earliest settlements of Peiligang Culture. Early humans settled the site around 7000 BC. When a flood happened around 5700 BC, they abandoned the site.

Zhu Zhi discovered the site in 1962. However, excavations did not occur until the 1980s. Among the remains that experts found in the site, there were houses, pottery, carvings, tools from stone and bone such as bone flutes.

Jiahu may be one of the most important sites for understanding the lives of early Chinese society when they left the caves of the Stone Age and began practicing agriculture and establishing settlements.

Jiahu Flutes (Gudi)

Archaeologists discovered the Jiahu flutes (or Gudi) in 1986 from an early Neolithic tomb. Gudi means bone flute. Six of those were the earliest examples of playable musical instruments.

Jiahu Bone Flutes - Gudi (Instrument)

Peiligang Culture carved them from the wing bone of the red-crowned crane. They have average dimensions of 20 cm x 1.1 cm (7.9 inches x 0.4 inches). On them, there are five to eight holes capable of producing various notes. Also, the 8-holed version has seven holes in the front and one thumb hole in the back. The small thumb hole in the back was probably for changing the pitch of the seventh hole.

Scholars don’t know the intention of these flutes. However, they speculate that they functioned in sacrificial rituals and ceremonies. On the other hand, some say they were for luring birds in hunts.

In any case, the Jiahu flutes are the oldest Chinese flutes that go back to 8000 years ago. Although Jiahu flutes are from the Neolithic period, some musicians still play this type of flute today.

See Also

Outbound Links

Gudi Wikipedia Page

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